Open letter to Canadians wearing white poppies for Remembrance Day

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      In the lead-up to Remembrance Day, most of us choose to pin a blood red poppy above our hearts as a symbol of respect and solemn remembrance of those who have given their lives for our freedoms. There are also those who will choose to wear a white poppy either with or instead of the traditional red poppy.

      The white poppy is intended to be a symbol of peace; those who wear it tend to believe that the red poppy is somehow a glorification of war. In my opinion, those who believe that white poppies are for peace while the red ones glorify war could not be more wrong.

      Just to be clear: I am not offended in any way, shape, or form by anyone who wears a white poppy or no poppy at all. I love that I live in a country where we have the freedom to express ourselves as we wish without fear that we will be whisked away and “disappeared” or—worse—“re-educated”. It makes me happy to see people express themselves against the status quo, especially if I disagree with their position. We can say and do as we wish but with that we also open ourselves up to debate from the opposing side, which is what freedom is all about. We can disagree respectfully.

      The red poppy has been in use since 1921; it was inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields”. Having memorized that poem, I can say without hesitation that it in no way glorifies war. Instead its focus is on the dead that were buried in the fields of Flanders. John McCrae wrote it after burying his friend who was killed in combat; does anyone believe he saw any glory in that churned up mud? Could anyone see glory in the trenches of World War One? War is an ugly, horrendous, vicious, and undeniably despicable act, and it is soldiers who understand this more than anyone. We wear a poppy to show the world we remember and respect the sacrifices that have been made by those who came before us. A poppy is no more a glorification of war than a tombstone is a glorification of death.

      I served my country as a reservist and volunteered to deploy as a peacekeeper to Bosnia in 2000. I’ve witnessed the ugly scar warfare leaves in its wake, not only on the land and the buildings but in the eyes of those who suffered through it. As I stand at the cenotaph listening to the bugle play the Last Post I do not think of the glory of war but the pain and suffering it leaves behind. I can feel it in my bones; it’s a overwhelming sense of stoic reflection where my only thoughts are of solemn remembrance of all the blood that was shed by those young soldiers. Those two minutes of silence are filled with memories of the destruction I’ve seen, thoughts of the lives lost, and thankfulness for all we have, but no thoughts of glory. I wear a poppy to show that I will never forget the sacrifices that enabled me to live a free life and to wear the Queen’s uniform with pride and in peace.

      A soldier wears a uniform and carries a weapon; they volunteer for different reasons but all have instilled in them the ethos, honour, courage, and pride that our country needs in its warriors. They keep all of us safe from the evil that lurks in the darkest corners of our planet, so we trust, arm, and train them to go to war on our behalf. There is no glory in a soldier’s work; there is only the dirty, violent, bloody, and destructive horror that we ask our warriors to unleash on those who threaten our nation or our people. Our soldiers trust that this work is absolutely necessary and that if they must lay down their lives that it not be in vain. Soldiers and veterans are the absolute best advocates for peace anyone could ever have because it is our soldiers who must pay the bill for our freedom and that bill can only be paid for in blood. General Norman Schwarzkopf is quoted as saying: “Any soldier worth his salt should be antiwar. And still there are things worth fighting for.” Soldiers don’t want war but are the first in line to go to war when it’s a fight worth fighting.

      The poppies soldiers and veterans wear are red because we remember the blood that is shed to pay for our peace and freedom. There is a legacy behind us and we honour that not just on Remembrance Day but everyday of our lives.

      If it’s a white poppy you choose to wear then that is your choice, but just know that you could never want peace more than those who fight our wars and be thankful that so many fought selflessly so you may make that choice.

      Just don’t tell us we are glorifying war.

      Comments

      42 Comments

      Ken Decker

      Nov 10, 2014 at 3:52pm

      Wars are planned and waged for economic gain: land, trade rights and riches, especially oil. Casting the enemy as 'evil' is part of the emotional sugar-coating required to get a populace to swallow the bitter pill their government and corporate rulers are forcing upon them. But we know in our hearts: It is always and only about profits.

      Example: U.S. fought to control S.Vietnam as long as the oil companies were drilling the hell out of the Mekong delta. All the engineers were certain there must be oil there as there was in Malaysia and Brunei. After ten years of dry wells, the oil-men threw up their hands, and soon the Paris Peace talks ensued.

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      Kimberly

      Nov 10, 2014 at 4:19pm

      I always wear both

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      Watch Harper

      Nov 10, 2014 at 4:21pm

      ...at the cenotaph tomorrow and talk to me about how the poppy and the hoopla around this day aren't used to glorify war and militarization. The narrative that excludes anything but the most pious of sentiments around soldiers works to exclude the criticism of war and militaristic tendencies in society.

      That said, best quote is by Bill Hicks,

      "I'm in the unenviable position of being for the war, but against the troops."

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      No poppy for me

      Nov 10, 2014 at 4:23pm

      Michael, you may not be wanting to glorify war but our federal government sure is. I will not participate in the Cons attempts to identify us as a warrior nation. I will remember my uncles death in action privately, and not allow it to be used for other purposes.

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      AntiRedPoppy

      Nov 10, 2014 at 5:30pm

      I am a white poppy wearer from the UK and while I understand that many may wear this to sympathize with the "sacrifices" of those who fought "for us", the bigger plan of the story needs to be looked at.
      In Britain, as in Canada I gather, the red poppy is promoted by the organizations affiliated with the military. Events of the Royal British Legion (who get the proceeds from all the red poppy sales) are co-sponsored by defense/war companies like Lockheed Martin. Younger generations take selfies and wear fashionable ones... yes, it's a fashion in some peoples' minds!
      I was actually motivated to wear the white poppy as a protest against this militarism - there is a VERY strong glorification of the military and I wouldn't be surprised if it was used for propaganda.
      At the same time, there are many veterans organizations (like Veterans for Peace UK and Veterans for Peace USA) who actively promote the white poppy as opposed to the red one.
      I am the first to feel sad for soldiers - I passionately read about war history and read war memories, autobiographies, etc. and I read it on both sides.
      I disagree that people needed to "fight for our freedom". Freedom was given to us by nature, and there is always someone out there trying to steal it from us - and sometimes the enemy trying to take that freedom is closer to home than you might think.

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      Martin Dunphy

      Nov 10, 2014 at 5:43pm

      There are also those who choose to wear no poppy for their own reasons, and their choice should be respected (meaning not questioned) as well.

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      Just Remember

      Nov 10, 2014 at 6:26pm

      Just stop and remember. You don't need a ceremony or a poppy, though those things help people remember. I'll wear a red poppy and my white one if I can find it, and attend a RCL ceremony that nasty people will try to co-opt, as they try to co-opt everything in the world.

      My neighbour has passed away now but he told me of the time he flew in a plane, dropped bombs on people he had nothing against and watched bullets fly through his friends in the hurtling tin can. He told me with the deepest gravity that there was nothing noble about ordinary caring people dying in war, and that's the sacrifice I choose to remember.

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      csarichardo@gmail.com

      Nov 10, 2014 at 6:33pm

      Peace via war. Onward christian soldier. Onward military industrial complex. After WWI women were free to finally get the right to vote ! Their fight was not with Europe but with their own government. The enemy in WWI (King of Germany) was the grandson of Queen Victoria !! These wars are not about your freedom but about the rulers just fighting with one another for a bigger piece of the planet.

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      RUK

      Nov 10, 2014 at 7:14pm

      And then there's people like me who lose poppies almost instantly! I keep wondering if people are wondering if I am making a statement

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